Review: FLOWERS FOR THE SEA by Zin E. Rocklyn (2021)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Sirens Con 2021 (Unabridged Books Buy Link)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warning: realities of birth, generational trauma, vomiting, infant harm and death, body horror, threat of drowning

On an ark escaping from a flooded kingdom, Iraxi is ostracized both on land and at sea, with her pregnancy the only thing keeping her company. Claustrophobic in its intimacy, this story has her narrowly escaped hell only to find herself in a new nightmare of razorfangs and other things that stalk the deep.

The language in this novel is intimate and precise. The location is tight – it takes place entirely on a ship escaping from a drowned world. Outside, there is the danger of literal sea monsters. Inside, there is starvation and distrust, especially as Iraxi seems to be the only one to have successfully gotten pregnant in the last five years. There’s hope in the new birth, but also fear of what comes next from her fellow passengers and rejection as Iraxi questions if she even wants the child altogether. The other characters aren’t much help either, though they definitely explain a lot as to why Iraxi feels the way she does about her predicament, both personally and on a community-level.

The horror found within pulls no punches, with key moments engaging both visual fears as well as audio, making for incredible reading jump scares. Pregnancy is part of the peril here, as is the child that comes of it. There is some body horror in addition to uncomfortable nightmare sequences to depict the before-times. I won’t go more into specifics because it’s best experienced first half, but it is as terrifying as it is awe-inspiring.

Anger simmers and propels the plot forward. Though there is time ticking with the upcoming arrival of the baby, Rocklyn keeps the reader going with hints as to what got Iraxi on this path, why she’s so angry, arriving an ending that tracks perfectly.

ARC Review: LURE by Tim McGregor (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: July 18th, 2022
Buy Links: Tenebrous Press Site | Kindle Edition

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an eARC from the publisher
Content warning: dismemberment, vomiting, physical child abuse (depicted), infection, spousal abuse (aftermath depicted), alcoholism, poverty, blood, gore

In a small fishing village named for a famed hero, Kaspar and his family run the local parish and rely on generosity to make ends meet. Things start getting weird and deadly when a mermaid arrives in town. People start going missing and madness ensues while deciding whether

Haunting and folkloric with elegant prose, this novella is a treat of deadly mermaids, townsfolk getting it wrong, and what feels like a rapture.

An interview with the author will be going up on release day, July 18th, 2022.

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Review: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (2013)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2013
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: misogyny, suicide

Finally, at long last, I have been granted the ability to listen to this mess of a tale. Enron started off as a natural gas company looking to disrupt the industry which turned into strict trading of energy that led to an energy crisis that endangered and disrupted the lives of millions. There’s much economic and office-political maneuvering to be found within this book.

Fascinating in its deception and complexity, the authors of this account provide fiction-esque portrayals of the key players while keeping in mind the vast losses and far-reaching consequences.

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ARC Review: JUST LIKE HOME by Sarah Gailey (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: July 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: murder, torture, gore, blood, sleep paralysis demons, emotional abuse, parental terminal illness

Vera Crowder comes home to settle the estate while her mother lives out her final days. Their relationship has always been strained and it doesn’t help that her father is Francis Crowder, a storied serial killer who used the house for his deadly extracurriculars. Though her father died years ago, something else haunts the house, leaving behind notes and making sure Vera doesn’t get a wink of sleep.

Claustrophobic, melancholy, and atmospheric, this story about a woman packing up her family’s possibly haunted house is a delight for both true crime and horror fans alike.

An interview with the author will be going up on release day, July 19th, 2022.

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ARC Review: JACKAL by Erin E. Adams (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: October 4th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: kidnapping, gore, child death, alcoholism, domestic violence, partner abuse, fatphobia (challenged), anxiety, racism

Liz Rocher returns to her predominantly white town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania to attend her best friend’s wedding. She thought the worst she would have to deal with are micro-aggressions and passive-aggressive reunions with people she hasn’t seen, in some cases, since high school. But when the couple’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing in the world, what unfolds is a race against time and a horrific history of Black girls going missing in the woods every summer for years.

It’s a little bit The Ritual meets Hereditary on a community level, and a lot bit about a divided past that haunts not only the town as a whole but also the characters driving the story.

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Author to Author with Maya Deane (Wrath Goddess Sing)

Wrath Goddess Sing is now available wherever books are sold and wow, I am so excited for everyone to read this retelling of the Iliad. Achilles is a trans woman and a gods-blessed warrior who fights for love as fiercely as she fights for glory. This story is full of multi-faceted womanhood, tense battles, complex cultures, linguistic exchanges, and detailed mythology. It’s fun. It’s fierce.

I’m thrilled to have author Maya Deane on my blog today to celebrate the book’s release and chat a bit about the craft and mythological inspiration behind this trans take on a Greek epic.

Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

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ARC Review: THESE PRISONING HILLS by Christopher Rowe (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: May 31st, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: PTSD, self-administered eye surgery, bombing, subjugation, kidnapping

It’s another post-apocalypse in Appalachia, but this one has to do with a war long thought over against an AI named Athena Parthenus. Decades go by, and the main character, Marcia, is about to retire until she’s reinstated for one more mission to investigate an automaton that’s reawakened.

The world-building is really cool in this one. There’s a band of Owl and Crow resistance groups who cosplay as their respective birds, and it’s interesting to see the different community dynamics of the few remaining human enclaves. There several different types of robots, and it’s not entirely clear if all the people aren’t some kind of cyborg as well. The writing is clear and crisp, and it’s easy to keep all the different factions clear.

It’s a bit on the nose in its exploration of the collapse of an empire and the cycles of violence that come with it, citing examples of Greek and Roman history in casual dialogue. But for a small vignette of a greater world, it simply deepens the worldbuilding.

Due to the brevity of the work, the character development loses a bit of its depth. That being said, it’s rad to have a genre work about a reckoning with past and present while AI have different agendas with regards to where the world goes next.

ARC Review: INHERITORS by Asako Serizawa (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: July 14th, 2020*
Buy Links: Barnes & Noble | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an eARC from NetGalley
Content warning: Murder, war crimes, sexual assault (not depicted), comfort women, gore, PTSD, terminal illness

A historical fiction journey following one family spanning several generations and centuries. Starting with colonial Japan and a murder, going all the way to post-the-current-year (2035 to be precise) to a V.R. utopia masking future-type horrors unfolding. It’s about cycles of imperialism, violence, and generational trauma, some of which isn’t necessarily dealt with, but very much explored.

Told in a wide range of styles, from interviews to more straightforward narratives to diary entries, I found myself having a hard time believing that this was fiction and not something like a Svetlana Alexievich collection of accounts.

*In an effort to get my reading list under control, I will be finishing up a few ARCs that I should have finished, in some cases, years ago.
Yes, I am embarrassed.

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Review: THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: gendered violence, parental death, brain washing, gun violence, state-sanctioned violence

This collection takes place in a world where memories can be hard encoded and people essentially function like computers. New Dawn has strict ideas of what being a functioning member of society means. Though there’s echoes of a utopia, it’s a full on surveillance state. Each of the five stories found within the collection takes on a different angle in how New Dawn poses a danger both for those within the system and those beyond it.

Thoughtfully woven together with rad stories and characters, incredible world-building, this was a delight to read, and I’m excited to dive into the source material (Dirty Computer, 2018) in the near future.

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Review: THE HACIENDA by Isabel Cañas (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Book of the Month Club

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warning: arson, murder, gore, rape (mentioned, not depicted), vomiting, financial abuse

Beatriz lost everything when her father was executed during the Mexican War of Independence. She and her mother go to live with reluctant relatives, until Beatriz sees an opportunity to return to some form of personal security in marrying Don Rodolfo Solórzano. It takes her to his family estate in the countryside, Hacienda San Isidro. But the promised security is quickly dashed when things start going bump in the night and there is more truth to the rumors surrounding Rodolfo than initially ignored.

This book has everything: 1800’s Mexican history, political tensions, a haunted house, a restless spirit, and a priest who’s also a witch. An incredible blend of historical fiction and gothic horror, I simply could not put this one down until the very last page.

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